Scholz says EU won't be intimidated by Russia 'show of force'

AFP , Tuesday 9 May 2023

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared Russia's "show of force" in Moscow on Tuesday would not intimidate the European Union, which he said should reform to become a larger "geopolitical" bloc.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech during the This is Europe debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on May 9, 2023. AFP


The EU should stay "steadfast in our support for Ukraine, as long as it is necessary", Scholz told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

His speech was delivered on a day auspicious both in Europe and in Russia.

May 9 is the anniversary of the proposal that gave birth to the EU.

In Russia, the May 9 Victory Day parade marks the Soviet defeat of the Nazis in World War II.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a Red Square ceremony featuring thousands of soldiers, seeking to project an image of military might despite his army enduring battlefield failures in Ukraine.

"In Moscow, 2,200 kilometres (1,370 miles) northeast from here, Putin is parading his soldiers, tanks and rockets. Let us not be intimidated by such a show of force," Scholz said.

Referring to how Germany's Nazi-era "imperialistic megalomania" gave way to the EU and its ambition for collective peace and prosperity, Scholz said: "None of us wants to be back at the time in Europe when the law of the strongest applied."

That, he said, "is why the message of May 9 is not what is coming out from Moscow today.

"Rather it is our message, which is: the past will not triumph over the future".

Multi-polar world

Scholz said that, with the rise of heavyweight economies in Africa, Asia and South America, "the world of the 21st century will be multi-polar".

Those nostalgic for "great power status fantasies... are stuck in the past".

He acknowledged that "rivalry and competition on the side of China have certainly increased".

He wholeheartedly backed the stance of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that a "smart de-risking" of Europe from China was needed, rather than the tougher line the United States was pressing for.

The United States "remains Europe's most important ally", he added, emphasising the role of NATO in boosting Europe's drive for greater defence production, for its own security as well as for supplying Ukraine in its war against Russia.

To bolster the EU's prospects as it navigates a changing world, Scholz argued that the bloc should make good on its promises to let Western Balkan neighbours join.

But that shone a light on the need of some serious housekeeping within the EU, he said.

Notably, it needs to streamline decision-making on defence and tax matters, to do away with the veto power individual member states currently wield.

Ensuring that all member states abide by EU democratic principles and rule of law was also important, Scholz stressed to the lawmakers of the European Parliament, who have been vociferous in criticising perceived democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland.

He also suggested any debate on reforming the EU could usefully consider ways to strengthen the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

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